Pear, Marsala, Coffee and Chocolate Trifle

Serves 8


125g. raisins
275mls. Marsala
150mls. strong black coffee
1 tbsp. soft light brown sugar
145g. sponge fingers
15g. hazelnuts, toasted and very roughly chopped
6 tbsps. cocoa powder
300mls. double or whipping cream
2 tbsps. caster sugar

For the custard:

4 large egg yolks
65g. caster sugar
2 1/2 tbsps. cornflour
250mls. whole milk
300mls. double cream
1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the pears:

300mls. dry white wine or cider
125g. granulated sugar
2 strips of lemon rind
2 tsps. vanilla extract
4 Williams pears, peeled, halved and cored


  1. Put the raisins in a saucepan and add 200mls. of Marsala.  Bring to just under the boil, remove from the heat and leave the raisins to plump up.
  2. For the custard, Put the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl and mix well.  Heat the milk, cream and vanilla in a large pan until just below boiling, then take off the heat and slowly pour over the sugar and egg mixture, whisking continuously.
  3. Clean the pan, put the egg and cream mixture into it and whisk over a medium heat for 2 – 3 minutes until thickened.  If any lumps appear whisk the mixture or beat hard with a wooden spoon.  Pour into a large bowl, cover with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and leave to cool completely.
  4. Put the wine, 200mls. water, the sugar and lemon rind into a saucepan and heat, stirring to get the sugar to dissolve.  Add the vanilla and pears and cook gently until the pears are just soft.  Leave the pears in the liquid until they are cool.
  5. Put the hot coffee into a dish and add the light brown sugar and the rest of the Marsala.  Dip the sponge fingers in the coffee mixture and lay 2 for every portion in the bottom of eight glasses or bowls (each with a volume of about 250mls.), breaking them up if necessary.
  6. Spoon the raisins on top of the sponge, scatter on the nuts and sift some of the cocoa powder over the top.  Slice the pears thickly and divide between the glasses, then add the custard.
  7. Put the glasses / bowls in a roasting tin, or something similar, cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge for 2 hours.
  8. Before you serve sift some cocoa powder on top of the custard.  Whip the cream and add the caster sugar and spoon this on top of each trifle.  Sprinkle the rest of the cocoa powder on top and serve.


You can use tinned pears in a natural juice, not syrup, if you do not want to poach your own.  Fresh pears are, of course, in season this month.

If you do not want to make fresh custard you could use custard powder at a push.  If you make fresh custard you do not have to use cream.  I make mine with all milk but I use gold top.  Do not have the heat too high when you have mixed in the eggs as otherwise you will end up with scrambled egg.  You can buy fresh custard in the chiller cabinet also if you wish.

You could replace the Marsala with sweet sherry if you do not have Marsala or wish to buy it.

I use Greek yoghurt on top of my trifles as it is less sweet.  I also use Greek yoghurt on my pavlovas as it adds a bit of tartness.  I can also kid myself that I am being healthier by not using cream!!

I thought this might be a nice recipe for Christmas.  You could always make it in one large bowl if you preferred or didn’t have the glasses to make individual ones.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email